Don’t Throw Yourself Away

I have a lot of interests. A career path has long been a source of anxiety for me. The world is so big and full all sorts of interesting things, it seems insane to narrow my scope to one particular aspect of it.

The more I learn about one subject, the more I want to delve into another subject related to it and so on and so on.

I like butterflies so I learned more about them, which in turn led to learn about macro photography so I can capture their beauty.

I’m not trying to be wishy-washy and deliberately indecisive. I know what I don’t like. Tedious, repetitive work like accounting or filing I can’t stand, but choosing between interests is really difficult for me. It is like asking whether you like lunch or dinner better.

“Don’t throw any of yourself away. Don’t worry about a grand scheme or unified vision for your work. Don’t worry about unity–what unifies your work is the fact that you made it. One day you’ll look back and it will all make sense.”

― Austin Kleon

When I came across that line in Steal Like an Artist, I felt relieved. I want to be able to pursue all of interests in life from the tiniest bug to the biggest film set.

When I decided that I wanted to pursue a creative career, I felt like I was betraying something, but when I was pursuing a career in Science that feeling was still there. I wanted to do both, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

We’re taught from such an earlier age to pick a particular approved path and stick with it. You’re either a doctor, a lawyer, or a plumber. That is the end of the conversation.

Now I’m trying to integrate everything I can back into my life and I feel more whole. When you sacrifice a side of yourself to fit into a specific box, be careful because you don’t know important integration is until its gone.

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Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad I got this off my chest. I hope you got something out it too.

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The Summer of Bonsai

This summer I purchased a starter tree from a nursery. I have a vague memory of walking through a mall as a very young child and seeing a display with one or two trees. Bonsai has captured my imagination since that first encounter.

I had a starter tree once before, but it died from neglect, so I was determined to get it right this time.

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It's still alive! #bonsai

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Despite keeping the tree alive, there was still a disconnect. I read a book on the subject of bonsai care and aesthetics, then started to view the activity more as an art form than as a time suck.

The central tenet of bonsai is naturalism. You shouldn’t see the artist’s touch when you look at the tree. This seems paradoxical becuase you are shaping the tree through cutting, wiring, and stunting the growth.

Bonsai
Classic Styles

I started studying the art form in my spare time. Gradually, I gained more knowledge and became more confident.

To me, the scariest thing about bonsai is the wiring of the tree. I’m afraid that I will snap the branches or worse, the trunk. However, wiring is where the true artistry of bonsai comes into play.

Rather than going withthe present moment, I struggle against the task and contort myself unnaturally under the self-imposed stress. I want perfection. I know intellectually that bonsai aesthetics require naturalism and asymmetry, but I want perfection.

 

It came together when I saw this video of a man creating a bonsai out of a Chrismas tree. The tree was plucked from a local nursery and it was transformed into something special.

bonsai

I went outside and re-wired my tree. I was mystified. It looked so much better from a simple perspective shift. The tree was imperfect, but that’s what made it beautiful. 

Bonsai

My tree finally look right. It looked like a bonsai! A weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I could get more trees.

Thia breakthrough helped me look at all of my other projects in a new light. The perfectionism had tainted what would have otherwise been cause for celebration. Being so fixated on what I wanted, I overlooked the beauty of what I had.

bonsai

I hope to take the lessons I hae learned through practicing bonsai with me. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys nature and reflecting on one’s day!

Do Drugs Make You More Creative?

Approached by something truly creative, someone will inevitably say, “What kind of drugs was he taking?” I’ve heard this ever since I could remember, but I have always found it strange.

Do drugs really cause creativity?

drugs

 

“I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”

-Salvador Dali

There seems to be a clear connection between drugs and art style and creative people are more likely to use drugs , but the connection between narcotics and producing masterworks is hazy at best. Another study showed that artists used drugs to help regulate the emotions that crop up during the creative process.

In my own experience, drugs have only served as a dampener to creativity. I may feel euphoric, but I don’t do anything. When I do find the energy to create something, usually it is subpar at best.

I will confess that I haven’t tried any drugs that were not prescribed to me. The drug with the most euphoric effect I have taken is Xanax, but I don’t think that invalidates my argument.

drugs

I don’t think screenwriting is therapeutic. It’s actually really, really hard for me. It’s not an enjoyable process.

-Charlie Kaufman

I don’t begrudge anyone that takes drugs for recreational purposes. Life is difficult. Creative people tend to be more emotional and have a harder time regulating that emotion, but the whole idea of taking drugs to “be more creative” sounds disingenuous.

Being creative consistently is difficult. The entire process is filled with doubt and fear. Most drugs dampen those feelings, but those feelings are necessary to create good work.

Without a healthy amount of fear, your work will be filled with embarrassing mistakes. The overall quality will drop and the pieces won’t be an accurate expression of yourself, but an expression of your current mind state.

How sustainable can this process be? Countless brilliant artists’ lives were cut short by this harmful creative process. You can take too many on drugs, but you can’t overdose on creativity.

drugs

“We are all in search of feeling more connected to reality…We indulge in drugs or alcohol, or engage in dangerous sports or risky behavior, just to wake ourselves up from the sleep of our daily existence and feel a heightened sense of connection to reality. In the end, however, the most satisfying and powerful way to feel this connection is through creative activity. Engaged in the creative process we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming, masters of the small reality we create.”

-Robert Greene

I want to feel something genuine. My whole attraction to art stems from that idea. Drugs aren’t a valid gateway to get the experiences that I crave. I want to be as present as possible and learn from my experiences.

That is Art to me. It is not novelty for novelty’s sake, but an expression of a human experience unique to the artist and simultaneously common to the species.

What do you think about the relationship between drugs and creativity?

On Creativity

“The human mind is naturally creative, constantly looking to make associations and connections between things and ideas. It wants to explore, to discover new aspects of the world, and to invent. To express this creative force is our greatest desire, and the stifling of it the source of our misery. What kills the creative force is not age or a lack of talent, but our own spirit, our own attitude. We become too comfortable with the knowledge we have gained in our apprenticeships. We grow afraid of entertaining new ideas and the effort that this requires. to think more flexibly entails a risk-we could fail and be ridiculed. We prefer to live with familiar ideas and habits of thinking, but we pay a steep price for this: our minds go dead from the lack of challenge and novelty; we reach a limit in our field and lose control over our fate because we become replaceable.”

-Robert Greene,

Mastery

I have done a lot thinking lately on what I want to do in my life and the nature of myself as a person. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t view myself as a wholly negative enity and I could see things more clearly. I believe my greatest strengths as a person is my creativity.

I don’t think that creativity is some sort of superpower, I think it is more of a mindset. We tend to stifle our own creative ideas due to our own worries and thoughts. I find that I am most creative when I am in a more inituive, rather than intellectual headspace.

I set out today to take a macro photo of an Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly. It wasn’t going to be anything fancy, I simply wanted to capture the beauty of the subject.

creativity
Eastern Tailed Blue

When I was reviewing my shots in Lightroom I came across this photo:

creativity

It wasn’t what I would call good, but there was something about it that caught my eye. I fiddled with it for a few minutes and I got one my favorite photos that I have ever taken.

creativity
Eatern Tailed Blue

Normally, I would have ignored that photo and moved on, but something in my gut told me to mess with it. Everyone has moments like this, but not everyone acts on their intuition.

Next time try taking a risk on yourself and you might get something awesome!

If you like Wildlife Photography and Videos check out The Nerdy Naturalist! 

Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent, is the first feature film to be entirely painted. While this achievement is momentous enough to receive attention, the underlying story of the film and its production is even more magnificent!

Loving Vincent Review

The film started out as a simple idea in the mind of co-director Dorota Kobiela. She had been reading the letters of Vincent van Gogh and fell in love with them. She decided that she should make a short film about the famous artist, hand painting each frame herself.

After receiving a grant for the short,  Kobiela started working for BreakThru Studios as an animator and a concept artist. There she met the other co-director of the film, Hugh Welchman who thought her short might have more potential as a feature film. 

The film is an interesting combination of CGI and oil-paintings that bring the world of Van Gogh’s paintings to life.

Loving Vincent Review

To achieve this stunning look, the filmmakers separated the animation process from the painting process. They would shoot reference footage of the actors against a green screen, then the artists would paint the actors and the background into the scene frame by frame.

The distortion of Van Gogh’s original paintings proved to become an issue for film translation. A post production team was on set throughout principal photography to ensure that the footage shot would actually be usable.

Aside from the spectacle of the visuals, the story of Loving Vincent, is what distinguishes the film from other biopics like it. The film follows the aftermath a year after Vincent van Gogh’s suicide. We only get glimpses at the artists through the eyes of other people, but doesn’t make him any less sympathetic or what he did any less sad.

Loving Vincent Review

We see how it affected the residents of the artist’s final destination and the people who were closest to him. Whoever they were, his death affected them greatly.

The most valuable thing about Loving Vincent, is not the dazzling visuals; it is the added dimension we receive the a great man like Vincent van Gogh. Throughout the film, the viewer witnesses pivotal moments in the artist’s life that shaped him and perhaps destroyed him.

What did you think of the film? Do you have any suggestions for what film I should watch next?

Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Sustaining Creativity

I have learned not to wait for inspiration to come to me, but to get up and chase after it! Here are some tips on sustaining your spark of creativity.

Explore Other Mediums of Art

Exploring different mediums of art  help me stay fresh with ideas. I believe that it helps with the creative process to look at something that is unrelated from the work I am doing, but is still artsy. I often get hyper focused on whatever project I am working and it is nice to take a break in an inspiring way.

Rest from Work by Vincent van Gogh

I often look at paintings for inspiration when I am stuck on Film problems. Paintings have some of the most exquisite compositions and use of color in any medium of art.

The best way to keep other mediums in my world has been through social media. If we are constantly going to be checking our phones, we might as well make it useful.

The History of Painting‘s Twitter account is my personal favorite for inspirational art, but there are many others like it for poetry, music, and film.

Express Excess Emotions and Thoughts

I have started journaling before writing anything that is seen by the public. I have found that clears my mind of excess chatter and helps me focus on writing concisely and on topic.

When I don’t express the extraneous thoughts and emotions from my day they show up in all sorts of weird ways in my project and take up editing time.

This principle can be applicable for all manner artists without the use of a journal, such as banging on a drum, doodling, or screaming at your cat.

Make Something Silly

Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. When you spend your time looking through a camera, sometimes you end up with head in your rear end.

chicken man
Unrelated photo of man-child.

When I make something silly, I am able to cast off the shackles of perfectionism and pretension to actually make something. I often feel trapped by my own perception of my work and when I make something unapologetic-ally ridiculous, I feel as though I truly regain objectivity.

Take Care of Yourself

The most important  lesson I have learned is that to be creative you have to be functional as well. My personal vice is staying up late and sleeping in. I’m not as sharp when I haven’t slept and especially when I haven’t slept the correct hours.

Don’t stay up all night being angry at your clock.

To focus on your creative task, it is best to be free from distractions such as hunger, indigestion, or exhaustion. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but avoid it when you can.

Those are the tips I have for sustaining creativity, please let me know what you think!

 

Balancing Act

“As a human being the artist may have many moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is ‘man’ in a higher sense – he is ‘collective man’ – one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic life of mankind.”

-Carl G. Jung

I’ve been trying to more flexible with my work. I tend to over prepare for everything I embark on. It is the way I cope with anxiety about uncertainty. Unfortunately, I talk myself out doing things and I remain rigid.

The best things I have ever made, writing, film, or anything else, have come from fluid spontaneity. However, if I become too spontaneous the piece turns into garbage.

I find it very interesting that any good pieces exist and that any artists have any degree of sanity. In order to make something worth while, your consciousness and unconsciousness have to communicate with each other simultaneous and at the right time. It is a sleight of hand maneuver that fools both the audience and yourself at once.

If you are lucky enough to pull this magic trick off, the stiff, shallow feeling starts to appear in your heart. It is doubt, the doubt that you can replicate such a feat a second time. You spent all your time anticipating failure and once thing start going well, you panic. You never considered such an outcome. When someone fails they hang their head and go on their way, but when someone succeeds, that’s basically uncharted territory.

Fear is what ultimately stops me from creating anything. My head spins with millions of ideas for projects, but I just I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Fear is useful in most respects. It colors my projects both negatively and positively. I’m not one to take irrational risks, but I’m not one to take rational ones either.

I am glad to report that I am getting better. I am creating things more regularly. The dull color of fear has left my vision and merely accents my frames. My consciousness and unconsciousness have been talking and have become friends. I can look myself in the eye and truly see.

 

 

The New Blacklist

“The blacklist was a time of evil…no one on either side who survived it came through untouched by evil…[Looking] back on this time…it will do no good to search for villains or heroes or saints or devils because there were none; there were only victims.”

-Dalton Trumbo

The Academy Awards have been viewed for many years as a sham by many people, but this year I feel insulted as a lover of cinema. I love Film, I hope by now that has been made clear, but I think Hollywood has out lived its usefulness.

I don’t think you should make a film to win awards. You should make a film because you have a story to tell. If you do win an award, it should be because you earned it. It shouldn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or what set of genitals you have.

Art is about appealing to the human soul. It transcends the flesh., crosses barriers, and brings us together. Art does not pander. 

Out of the 20+ films I saw in 2017,  it irritates me that Get Out is nominated for Best Picture, a genre film with forced social commentary over something like A Ghost Story, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, or even Blade Runner 2049 (though I didn’t care for it). Those films were something slightly different than the exciting, annual racism-is-bad romp that we are accustomed to seeing.

It is pretty obvious that Get Out was put there to meet some sort of of quota and that’s really sad. It shouldn’t matter who you are, it should matter what film you made. Enforcing this distorted “diversity” will turn the Academy Awards into the Not White Male Awards.

Isn’t this forced inclusion of “diverse” films simply shifting the prejudice to another group of people rather than giving more people exposure?

I find the idea of the censorship and maligning of the art of any artist based solely on what group they belong to alarming and disgusting. I firmly believe that everyone deserves a voice in art, even if popular opinion is that they have too much privilege. It has only been  50(ish) years since the infamous days of the Blacklist. Are we really going to repeat this petty political game this quickly?

Painting with a Lens

“You could not step twice into the same river.”

-Heraclitus

I’ve always been drawn to abstract and surreal visual art.

clocks
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

The distorted images seem more real than the actual objects they represent. I’ve always wanted to created something like that, but working with a camera I wasn’t sure how to pull it off.

Pier
Looking at Brunswick from Jekyll Island, GA.

Last year I was on Jekyll Island playing around with my Nikon at the pier and my father showed me a trick using long exposure. He shifted the camera slightly to make a ripple effect. Not being much of a photographer, this was news to me and I started experimenting with it.

Moon
The moon.

This has been become the way I shoot photos now. I paint with the lens.

Light Tornado
Tornado of light made from Christmas lights in my living room.

I really enjoy using this technique because every photo is unique. It is like a Jackson Pollack painting, but using the environment around you. Every place you go suddenly becomes new again.

Wall of Light
Wall of light in my living room.

Yesterday I was took this photo:

Sunset Through the Trees
Sunset through the woods.

With a few camera shakes it became this:

img_2790

The best thing about art is once something becomes stale you can change it. It is never boring because it is never the same.

Trees
Trees.

“The Analyst” – A Short Story

NOTE: I tried getting this story published in a few journals, but it was declined. This is probably because of one line in particular. However, I am completely open to the idea that it was simply terrible. I decided to share this story with you anyway, because I am fond of it and I thought you all might enjoy it.

This is not an overtly political tale because I do not believe the themes explored in this work are political. I view them as issues of philosophy rather than issues of government.

The Analyst

by Ethan J. Hatchett

Rain fell on his black coat, each drop numbing his shoulders further. He approached the door of the hulking, concrete fortress that was his workplace. He swiped his identification card through the reader and the door creaked open. “Morning, Analyst,” the nurse greeted him dryly. The Analyst nodded in passive acknowledgement and continued his march forward. He removed his coat and hung it up on the the rusty hook in his office. He shook his computer awake from its slumber and the monitor lit up at a creeping pace. He studied the file of James Thomas, the patient he would be seeing this morning. Thomas had been diagnosed with an Antisocial Personality Disorder and has been experiencing Manic Depressive episodes. The Analyst had not seen this patient, Thomas was transferred from  another facility last week, but he already had a sense of the issue. Thomas was raised in a rural area, far from the reach of the Community and was probably indoctrinated by that uneducated, Neo-Reliant philosophy.  The Analyst did not believe in insanity. Everything had a logical explanation that could be deduced with well phrased questions or the simple implementation of the Scientific Method.

The Analyst arrived in the plexiglass chamber where they held therapeutic sessions. On the other side of the glass was James Thomas. Nineteen at most, Thomas was barely a man. He had short hair, clean shaven, and his clothes were awash with bright,  garish colors. Thomas was a stereotypical Neo-Reliant in almost every way, the only thing that was distinct was his young age. That movement tended to appeal to old men who had nothing to lose and were, in essence, dead already. They grow up before the Restoration and had faint memories of a world gone.

The two men sat in silence for sometime. The Analyst had learned over the years to put the patient off balance.  The Analyst took meaningless notes and every so often glanced sternly at Thomas. Almost half an hour elapsed before Thomas finally spoke. “Can I go now?” The Analyst looked up from his notes.

“Why would you want to do that, James? Everything is provided for you. No one has hurt you.” Thomas rolled his eyes. “Why are you so disrespectful, James? You went to school, correct?” Thomas nodded. “Well, then you knows as well as I, that respect is the foundation of human interaction.”

“Is that why you people have no doors? Respect?” Thomas chuckled.

“Do you not value transparency, James?” Thomas leaned closer to the glass.

“I prefer to shit alone.” The Analyst smiled. He closed his eyes,  took a deep breath, and recentered himself.

“Why haven’t you been taking your medication, James?” Thomas had no answer. “You need to take your medicine in order to feel better,” The Analyst continued in his calm tone.

“No,” Thomas replied curtly. The Analyst was taken by surprise.

“No?”

“I refuse.” The Analyst leaned back in his chair.

“I’m afraid you do not have a choice. We are doctors, our authority supersedes yours in this matter. You are a danger to yourself and others.”

“How am I dangerous?” Thomas asked in a mocking tone.  The Analyst was losing his patience.

“Do you remember July 5th, Mr. Thomas?”

“This again? I’ve explained this a hundred times.” The Analyst had enough.

“Do you really think that anyone would believe that an officer of community assaulted you and withheld food from you?” The Analyst stood up. “Why did you kill him? He had a family. Have you no empathy for your fellow man?” Thomas stood up and they met eye to eye.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” The Analyst stared in Thomas’ eyes. They were two brown balls of fiery emotion. There was no logic, no rational thought. He was hopeless.

“Where are you taking me?” Thomas asked, half curious, half scared. The Analyst did not answer. He held Thomas’ wrist and walked as fast as he could without bursting into a sprint. “I’m sorry.” The Analyst kept moving, barely acknowledging his admission of guilt.

“It’s too late for that now.”

The Analyst waited in the brightly lit room for some time. It was nearing midnight, but he was still restless. The metal door in front of the room swung open and the Physician approached him. “Congratulations. Another successful conversion, thanks to the Scientific Method.” The Analyst smirked.

“The praise belongs to you and yours,” The Analyst replied with anticipation. “May I see him?”

The two men entered the dimly lit ward. The Physician gestured towards a figure hunched on a bed. The Analyst rushed towards him. Thomas was bald with freshly made scars running down his skull, his eyes searching blankly for something. “James,” The Analyst began, “do want to take your medication?” Thomas nodded silently.